Description: Decades ago, psychiatrists used the term Schizophrenogenic Mothers to describe the mothers of individuals with schizophrenia and to then go on to talk about how the patient’s mother’s emotional ambivalence and related paradoxical behavior contributed to and perhaps even cause their offspring’s schizophrenia. Reflecting gender biased and even misogynistic attitudes, such hypotheses could simply and defensibly be dismissed. However, like the Icebox Mother theory of autism in children we can also look and see bits of reality behind these horribly biased and sexist perspectives. I terms of the mothers of schizophrenic young adults we can think about how we might come across if only our side of the conversations we were trying to have with our young adult son or daughter while they were showing a full blown “word salad” approach to conversation laced with delusional beliefs and statements. Analyzed out of context, the mother’s side of such conversations would seem a bit surreal to say the least. What about clinicians who engage in therapeutic connections/sessions with psychotic patients or clients? How does it feel to be trying to engage conversationally with someone who has effectively lost their grip on reality, and who, consequently is presenting an “alternative (psychotic and un-grounded) reality.” What else does this statement bring to mind? Does the phrase “alternate facts” suggest anything? Have a read through the essay linked below and see what you think.
Source: Trump’s Method, Our Madness, Joel Whitebook, The Opinion Pages, New York Times.
Date: March 20, 2017
Photo Credit: Jean Dubuffet, “Tissu d’episodes” (c. 1976). Credit CNAC/MNAM/RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY, 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris
Links: Podcast Link — https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/opinion/trumps-method-our-madness.html
Be VERY clear. The author of the piece link above is NOT suggesting that Donald Trump is psychotic! What he is suggesting is that the way the social psychology experiment that is the Trump administration makes people feel could be usefully informed by considering the challenges faced by clinicians who are trying to engage therapeutically with psychotic clients. The “fusion of despotism and postmodernism” ascribed to Vladimir Putin’s advisor Vladislav Surkov that aims to keep critics and opponents “confused” informs an understanding of Trump as either a “calculating … puppet master” or as functioning on a showman’s intuition”. Against such a social presentation, fact-checking is beside the point and exhausting. The key, it is suggested, is NOT to focus on the “manifest (surface) content” of the Trump administration roller-coaster ride but to instead, as a clinician working with a psychotic client might, work to get a grip on the “underlying dynamics” of what is being said, claimed, and done. Only then can an opportunity to get re-grounded in some sort of reality be found. To do otherwise is to run a longer term risk of burnout or “Trump-exhaustion”. And THAT is a serious challenge given the seemingly boundless energy levels of the current president.
Questions for Discussion:
- Define Psychotic?
- What is the relationship between thinking/reflection and reality in someone struggling with psychoticism?
- How can we think about the connection between talking to a psychotic person and talking to the Trump administration without calling Donald Trump psychotic (which we CANNOT do as we have not properly assessed him)?
References (Read Further):
Neill, J. (1990). Whatever became of the schizophrenogenic mother?. culture, 2, 14. http://www.psychodyssey.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Whatever-Became-of-the-Schizophrenogenic-Mother.pdf
Ackerley, G. D., Burnell, J., Holder, D. C., & Kurdek, L. A. (1988). Burnout among licensed psychologists. Professional psychology: Research and practice, 19(6), 624.
Naeem, F., & Kingdon, D. (2016). Brief Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Psychosis. In Brief Interventions for Psychosis (pp. 27-39). Springer International Publishing.
Yung, A. R., & Lin, A. (2016). Psychotic experiences and their significance. World Psychiatry, 15(2), 130-131. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wps.20328/full
Cavelti, M., Homan, P., & Vauth, R. (2016). The impact of thought disorder on therapeutic alliance and personal recovery in schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder: An exploratory study. Psychiatry research, 239, 92-98. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2664/ca8c97b7006451c57daf18bf8ce4516e1cf2.pdf